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Peeping Tom: The Criterion Collection

This mesmerizing study in fear scandalized the British film community upon its release in 1960, deemed appallingly sordid and salacious by critics and the press. In recent years, championed as a major influence by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Peeping Tom, which forced director Michael Powell into a brief exile, has been reexamined as a challenging, disturbing work of art. Carl Boehm stars as a tormented London studio focus-puller who pursues personal film projects in his spare time -- namely, filming the reactions of women as he murders them. Powell and screenwriter Leo Marks fill this slasher-genre concept with an abundance of ideas about the nature of voyeurism, the consequences of pornography, and the effects of an entertainment medium so easily given to exploitation and detachment. Powell's touch is both remote and aggressive, refusing to condemn the sociopathic cinematographer but fully capturing his victims' fear. Also aggressive, unfortunately, is the score, which occasionally builds to overbearing crescendos in a film otherwise notable for its masterful use of silence and sound effects. Boehm, too, is a tad over the top, too often imbuing his character with a comically gooney psychotic fervor to the extent that you wonder why nobody locked him up earlier. It makes life tough on wonderful Anna Massey as the nosy neighbor who begins to fall for the mysterious cameraman. Adding an eerie gothic touch is Maxine Audley, as Massey's blind alcoholic mother who scolds Boehm with the phrase, "All this filming isn't healthy." Otto Heller's chillingly controlled photography drenches the proceedings in wonderfully lurid technicolor. Criterion's done a terrific job with this near-perfect 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer in 2.0 Dolby mono. Includes scholarly commentary by film theorist Laura Mulvey and the terrific BBC documentary, A Very British Psycho, which covers both the film's struggle for acceptance and the fascinating life of scribe Marks, who was one of the Allied forces' top code-breakers in WWII.

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